• January 23 down the years

A changing of the guard in tennis

The sporting events of January 23 down the years
Steffi Graf: Won 22 Grand Slams in her career © Getty Images
Enlarge

1988
One tennis generation overcame another in the Australian Open. In the final, 18-year-old Steffi Graf beat Chris Evert, who was 14 years older. Most of the match was played under a retractable roof after a downpour. Graf won the first set 6-1 but was taken to a tie-break in the second. She retained the title for the next two years. Evert last won it in 1984.

1967
Naim Süleymanoğlu was born in Bulgaria to ethnic Turkish parents. His father was five foot tall, his mother four foot seven. Süleymanoğlu himself grew to match his dad. Assuming all weightlifters are clean and wouldn't dream of using a banned substance, here we go. This was one of the most famous and successful of them all. When the Bulgarian government began a crackdown on its Turkish minority (banning their language and dress, carrying out executions), they changed Süleymanoğlu's name to Naum Shalamanov. After winning two world titles, he defected in Melbourne and was flown to Turkey. Two years later he won the first of his three consecutive Olympic titles. In 1988 his combined total was greater than the winner of the heavyweight division in 1956. At the time, Paul Anderson was nearly 22 stone. Süleymanoğlu weighed less than 9½. He finished out of the medals in 2000 but won five world titles. We haven't got room for his world records.

2009
Who said tennis is a non-contact sport? In the third round of the Australian Open tennis in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic of Serbia beat Bosnian Amer Delic. After the match, Bosnian and Serbian fans threw chairs at each other.

1971
Scott Gibbs was born in Bridgend. Bulking up for rugby league, he emerged as the ultimate ram-raiding centre in union. Built like a bullock, he burst tackles and made shuddering ones of his own. His run through giant Springbok prop Os du Randt was a defining moment of the 1997 Lions tour. The return of the rugby league backs made a huge difference, the physicality of Gibbs, John Bentley, and Alan Tait helping to win the series 2-1. Gibbs scored a try for the Lions against New Zealand in 1993 and two in his last international, for Wales against Italy in 2001. Try-scoring wasn't his be-all and end-all, and he finished with only 11 in 58 internationals - but they included one of the most famous. Against England on April 11, 1999, a crash ball sent him through the England line, then two sidesteps took him past the rest of the defence. Neil Jenkins's last-minute conversion capped a thrilling finish. In rugby league, Gibbs played for Great Britain and won the 1996 Challenge Cup with St Helens.

Howard Winstone worked hard to get his title © Getty Images
Enlarge

1968
Howard Winstone became world champion at last. A classy Welsh featherweight, he'd tried three times to beat the rugged Mexican Vicente Saldivar, losing the first two fights on points and the third on a 12th-round stoppage. Saldivar was simply too strong and severe for him. Winstone's opponent tonight was altogether different. Mitsunori Seki had also fought Saldivar for the title. Twice. Same routine: a points defeat followed by something shorter. He didn't pack a punch and had to travel further than Winstone: the fight was in London's Albert Hall. It crawled along until the ninth round, when English referee Roland Dakin suddenly noticed a little nick around Seki's eye. When he took him back to his corner and stopped the fight, there wasn't much protest from Seki or his handlers - but it was just about the most harmless cut ever to end a championship fight. Seki had only just turned 26, but he retired immediately. Winstone lost the title in July and retired himself. Anyway he'd only been keeping the throne warm. Saldivar came out of retirement and won it back.

1970
Constantina Dita was born in Romania. When she won the Marathon at the 2008 Olympics, she was 38, the oldest ever winner of the event. She was third behind Paula Radcliffe at the World Championships in 2005.

1894
Herbert Perry was born. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1924 as part of the British running deer double shot team. The last man to go, he scored 39 points with his last ten shots to beat Norway by a single point.

1958
Sergei Litvinov was born. He was a Soviet thrower from the 1980s, so we're allowed some scepticism. Anyway, just for the record: in one of the big rivalries in hammer throwing, he finished second to Yuri Sedykh at the 1980 Olympics and beat him to take gold in 1988 (the Eastern Bloc boycott put them both out in 1984) and at the inaugural World Championships in 1983. He retained the World title in 1987 but never won the Europeans, settling for minor medals behind Sedykh in 1982 and 1986. He set three world records to Sedykh's four.

1919
Nina Dumbadze was born in the USSR. She set three world records in the discus, plus another four that weren't ratified, the first in 1939. The War and its aftermath deprived her of three Olympic Games, and by the time she took part in one, in 1952, she was past her best in competition and won only the bronze, although she did regain the world record a few weeks later. She was European champion in 1946 and 1950.

2000
Robert Weale won the World Indoor Bowls Championship. His opponent in the final, fellow Welshman John Price, was runner-up twice more. He lost in four finals after winning the title for the only time in 1990. In 2000, Weale also won the world outdoor fours title. He didn't reach the indoor singles final again until 2009, when he lost to England's Billy Jackson.

© ESPN EMEA LTD
Close